How much driving is enough? If you don’t do a lot, and for some reason think you should do more, how much more should you do? Drive, drive, drive. Is that enough? What about Healdsburg? Is that enough driving? From this fair suburb, it is 100 or more miles to that good Sonoman place. Shouldn’t that suffice? What if, at the last minute, your spouse throws you an automotive curveball, vis-à-vis dropping her off in the hilly center of San Francisco? Is that enough? Or is that too much?
Einstein knew the answer. The answer is blowin’ in the wind. It has to do with relativity. And as soon as you have dropped your Episcopal wife at the hilltop Grace Cathedral and driven off in search of lunch, one thing is relatively clear. It is good to go exploring. This experience actually began where most do these days, online. With the recommendation that a good sandwich is to be had at a particular deli on Polk Street. Why not? They polka on Polk Street. They must have lunch too. The question, of course, is do they park on Polk Street. You know the answer. It’s blowin’ in the wind.
Note that the wind is not blowing at all on this particular day. The skies are bright. And so are the prospects. Even for parking. And so it came to pass, without explanation as all good things do, that I drove my car, sans wifely copilot, down Nob Hill, ever so slightly up Russian Hill, hanging a very promising left turn into Broadway where, dead ahead, at a corner yet, I saw a space. Naturally, I saw it too late. But when is too late too late? It’s never too late, some say. And so it was with this parking space. I went around the block, approached it again, and somehow it was still there. Being at the corner, I could pull in straight, no parallel parking. Was I far enough from the curb to prevent the pop-out side door from scraping against the concrete? Only one way to find out. I lowered the ramp, and I lowered myself. Rolling out into a beautiful sunny Polk Street day.
The deli was only three streets away. And what a pleasant experience to roll there unaided. Having parked unaided. You never know. That is the thing. Even when what you know you know online, someone can give you a line…online. Thus the Brothers Deli. Buy the big sandwich with Everything On It, someone advised from Yelp. And so I do. Armed with the sandwich, I progress to the counter where a man with an accent takes my credit card. It is so urbane, I tell myself, being in San Francisco and all. Everyone has an accent these days, even in Menlo Park where a Yugoslav tailor recently sewed elbow patches on my sweater’s biceps region.
And having acquired a sandwich, an epic one that Jane and I are to share for lunch en route to Healdsburg…what to do while waiting for her cathedral meeting to conclude, except to have a coffee? I decide that the Hispanic proprietor of Royal Coffee isn’t continental enough for my current romantic vision of San Francisco’s café society. Would Ginsburg have hung out here? The question is a ludicrous one. Café Trieste is a mile away as the crow flies, and the crow would have to fly there, Russian Hill being what it is. I am parked, and here, and the man who serves me a splendid macchiato at Royal Coffee outcharms anyone at Ginsburg’s one-time beat hangout. On the way out, I thank him profusely.
I thank everything and everyone profusely for this moment. I have parked on my own. I have even parked without getting a parking ticket in San Francisco, which is no small achievement. True, on the way back, I cross Broadway and think I’ve gone too far. No, no, no. This is fine. Sacramento Street is the one I want. And here it is. And since there is no sign disallowing a left turn, I make one…or start to make one…for this street with its cars parked on either side looks awfully narrow…and the honking from the oncoming Muni bus must mean something…so I abort mission. Which takes me onto the wrong side of two-way Larkin Street, where an irate pedestrian shakes his fist. I can’t blame him. I have to blame myself. But that’s the thing about driving, you have to keep driving, and if you start blaming excessively, you don’t have enough attention to keep driving.
Still, parked and waiting for Jane on California Street, I do a sort of debriefing. What went wrong? I don’t know. San Francisco’s street junctions are irregularly marked. When in doubt, don’t turn. I take all this remarkably easily. I take the balance of the drive the same, although my stamina takes a hike. My shoulders are aching by the time I get to our Healdsburg destination. I dread the drive home.
But for no good reason, it turns out. Or, perhaps, for the wrong reason. What does happen involves another, more mysterious feeling…and it is that…for around San Rafael, perhaps one third of the way home, I begin to have the feeling that my one functioning (left) leg isn’t moving as freely as it should. Body position, I tell myself. Although that sounds a bit too rational. Actually, I panic ever so slightly and get off the motorway at Greenbrae, pulling into a familiar shopping center. Jane and I have a coffee, and then we hit the road…or I hit the panic button realizing that I have not parked with enough room to get back into my van. Someone has parked beside me, and now there is no room for me to lower the ramp and get inside. I berate myself, but I do so quietly. There is that. We have about an hour delay, and despite my dire predictions, the Golden Gate Bridge has no traffic. There is also that, which adds up to a lot.